Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Following the rules

Woman deported from UK despite being married to Briton for 27 years

The non-EU workers who'll be deported for earning less than £35,000

Frail pensioner faces deportation after decade in UK to China where she knows no-one

Woman with no hands had her benefits stopped because she couldn't open a letter

DWP head denies sanctions and suicide link

Outrage at claims DWP 'Grinches' are refusing to process appeals before Christmas while pursuing sanctions

What do all these things have in common?  Yes, they are the result of Tory ideology, which prioritises self over collective responsibility, but you can no more blame Tories for that than you can blame a scorpion for stinging.  It's in their nature and we all know it.  However, that's not the thing I'm thinking of.  The thing that they have in common is that someone, somewhere was following the rules.  Not just following the rules, but prioritising the rules over common sense.

Now there can be various reasons for doing this.  A small number of people will do it because they dislike foreigners or benefit 'scroungers' or because they think that disabled people should be left to sink or swim.  Some will do it because they enjoy having power over other people.  The vast majority will do it, however, because those are the rules and not following them could result in losing their job.  This will be a fear especially affecting those working for the DWP, who will be well aware of the cruelties of the system that awaits them if they can't find another job.  So they will comfort themselves by telling themselves that they were 'only doing their job' or 'only following the rules'  What's become known as the 'Superior Orders' defence, and it has never worked out well, historically speaking.

Soon Scotland will be have an independent welfare system.  I would hope it will be far more humane than the current UK system.  We do not yet have control over immigration, and the signs are that the UK system will become a great deal more harsh in the near future.  Is this really the way that Scots want to go?

I think not.  The time has come for us to leave England to follow her path and to demonstrate that another way is possible.  Westminster will, of course, fight to prevent Scottish independence, and will use any means necessary to do it.  We have seen how harsh the current regime can be,  We need to be strong, gather our courage and vote for independence.  Yes, the initial years after independence will most likely be hard and require some sacrifices.  However, it will be worth it if we can end up with a country where people don't have to follow harsh rules with no leeway for common humanity.  It's an ambition we can all get behind.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Then you win

There is a famous quote:
First they ignore you; then they laugh at you; then they fight you then you win.
It's often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, although the evidence seems to indicate that isn't the case.  However, it is a neat summing up of the stages that any movement will go through, generally speaking.

It applies quite well to the Scottish independence movement.  From its inception until 1999, the Scottish National Party (SNP) were pretty much ignored by the Establishment as a lunatic fringe movement that would never really trouble the UK or change things in any significant way.

In 1999 The Scottish Parliament was reconvened as a result of Labour's devolution policy,  The idea was that devolution would see off the Scottish independence movement by giving just enough autonomy to satisfy the lunatic fringe but not any sort of significant power, which would be retained at Westminster.  It was a nice theory.

Once people were used to having the Scottish Parliament back, using the limited powers it had been given we started to see the second phase.  It was ridiculed as being a 'wee pretendy Parliament' or 'glorified town council' by those who were British nationalists.  It was seen as giving the Scots too many ideas that might threaten the Westminster hegemony, which could not be countenanced,

In 2007 the SNP were elected to Holyrood as a minority administration, on a platform of, among other things, holding a referendum on Scottish independence in 2010.  In the event they were unable to pass the necessary legislation to hold the referendum.  However, they were re-elected as a majority administration in 2011, again on a manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on Scottish independence, and this time were able to pass the legislation to hold the referendum on 18th September 2014.  The campaigning began in 2012, and it was from this time that we saw more and more ridicule used against the idea of Scottish independence.

Scotland was too poor to be able to support itself, despite the fact that Scotland has an embarrassment of natural resources.  It had too small a population to form the sort of tax base required to support an independent country (which will be news to countries like Denmark).  It didn't have politicians who would be able to take the decisions needed to run an independent country (too stupid).  Didn't we know that we were just a comedy region of Greater England, the skirt-wearing, incomprehensible, drunken, blue-faced people who lived on deep-fried anything, to be pointed at and mocked?  Didn't we know that the North Sea oil was running out at any moment?  Why couldn't we understand that we were just ridiculous creatures, not fit to run a piss-up in a brewery?  Get back in your box and be quiet was the contemptuous message.

The outcome of the referendum was a bit too close for comfort for the Establishment.  Indeed, there was sheer panic towards the end, when one survey showed the Yes vote was in the lead, leading to a hastily written vow of more powers, the nearest thing to federalism.

A strange thing happened after the referendum however.  The Yes movement didn't shrivel up and die as expected.  And when the Vow was not fulfilled, to the surprise of no-one in the Yes movement, talk of a second independence referendum began to be heard.  Following the surprise Tory majority in the UK General Election in 2015, a referendum on EU membership became inevitable.  In the 2016 Scottish election the SNP were again returned as a minority administration, this time on a platform of a second independence referendum in the event of a material change in circumstances, the specific example being Scotland being taken out of the EU against the expressed will of the Scottish people.

Guess what?  That was exactly the result of the EU referendum.  Scotland now faces being removed from the EU despite the fact that every region of Scotland voted to stay in.  A second referendum is now almost certainly on the cards.  How is this being received?  The rhetoric is being stepped up.  British nationalists have taken to describing the referendum as 'divisive' and have called on the Westminster government not to grant the necessary Section 30 order required for Westminster to respect the result of a new independence referendum.  Politicians such as Ruth Davidson are starting to describe a new independence campaign in warlike terms, such as saying the SNP 'tried and failed to weaponise Brexit for independence'.  Some Unionist commentators like to bandy about terms like 'Ulsterisation', with all its implications of violence and sectarianism. Kezia Dugdale has pledged to oppose a second referendum on on independence. instead touting the non-starter of federalisation. 

We seem to be moving into the 'then they fight you' phase.  There's only once phase after this.  Then we win.